Syngenta to appeal $218M verdict in seed case

A United States district court has ordered Swiss agrochemical company, Syngenta, to pay out US$217.7 million to Kansas farmers who say the company commercialized a genetically modified corn product before being approved by China, a major corn importer.

"The verdict is great news for corn farmers in Kansas and corn growers throughout the country who were seriously hurt by Syngenta's actions", plaintiff co-counsel said in a recent joint statement. The lawsuits allege Syngenta's move to market the seed variety before China's clearing of it for imports wrecked an increasingly important export market for USA corn, causing years of depressed corn prices.

The case concerned Syngenta's Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade, genetically modified strains of corn seed.

That case involves four Kansas farmers representing more than 7,000 growers in the state. "Syngenta commercialized Agrisure Viptera in full compliance with USA regulatory and legal requirements, including USDA, EPA and FDA regulations".

Most of the farmers suing didn't grow Viptera, but China also rejected millions of metric tons of their grain because elevators and shippers typically mix grain from large numbers of suppliers, making it hard to source corn that was free of the trait.

With several cases initiated by US farmers in other states pending over the Swiss company's rollout of the GMO seed, Friday's ruling is a major milestone.

The farmers' case was the first to go to trial, but thousands of corn producers and traders are now also seeking compensation for lost revenue from the Swiss company. They have claimed that damages for farmers nationally totaled $5.77 billion, according to court papers.

The 8-person jury in Kansas agreed, setting the stage for dozens of additional lawsuits involving farmers nationwide. The company said the case is "without merit".

Syngenta says in a statement that it is "disappointed" by Friday's verdict after a three-week trial in Kansas City, Kansas. Chinese companies are engaged in a multibillion-dollar global buying spree to acquire technology and brands, a move to improve their competitive edge as explosive growth in their home economy slows.

  • Zachary Reyes